Hey y’all! Hope everyone is having a great start to your week.
If you weren’t able to be with us in church yesterday, you were missed!
Remember, we are encouraging you to invite someone to church, not just on Easter, but every week. It’s always a good week to invite someone to join us for worship.
Covid-19 has been an on-going battle for over a year now and attendance is down at churches all over the country. We need to remember, God gave us the church to benefit our lives and each others lives.
Brother Gary gave me something yesterday to put on the church sign and it applies very well here: The danger of missing church is soon you won’t miss it! Habits get in-grained in us faster than we realize. Once we get used to being out of church, it becomes a lot easier to stay out of church.
I say it all the time because it’s true, going to church doesn’t make someone a Christian. But, it sure does benefit the believer. Church is meant to be a time of encouraging, convicting, and equipping. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25, “24 And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, 25 not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” If you haven’t been in church, I want to encourage you to come back and worship with us.
Alright, this past Sunday, we continued our study of Romans, looking at the first 3 verses of chapter 9. Here are those verses:
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience testifies to me through the Holy Spirit[a]— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off[b] from Christ for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood. Romans 9:1-3
I’m sure you have heard by now of the tragic shootings in Atlanta last week that killed 8 people. The gunman was apprehended shortly after. When people began to look at his life to see what might have led this 21 year old young man to commit such an evil act, a surprising fact about him was discovered. He’s a member of a Southern Baptist Church. Not only that, in 2018 he was baptized after professing faith in Jesus as Lord.
How in the world did this young man reach the point that he intentionally took the lives of 8 people just 3 years after being baptized? What does the unbelieving world around us think about the church and about Christianity when they see that?
Ultimately, only God truly knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can’t definitively say that this man is unsaved in spite of his profession of faith, but I sure can’t see how a person who has come to truly know Jesus could do such an evil act as this young man did.
So, compare this tragic incident with what we read from Paul here in Romans 9. In verse 3, Paul writes that he could wish that he was cursed and cutoff from Christ for the benefit of his brothers and sisters (the unbelieving Israelites). Earlier in Romans, Paul already established that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. So, to be cutoff from Jesus would be to remain in unrighteousness and be separated from God for eternity. In other words, Paul is so distraught over his fellow Israelites spiritual condition that he would be willing to go to Hell if it meant that they would go to Heaven.
That is a shocking statement and a powerful statement and one that I have to admit has never entered my mind. I’ve never been so burdened for a lost person that I would voluntarily give up my spot in Heaven for them. And to put Paul’s statement into context even more for us, think about this: the unbelieving Israelites that Paul was concerned about hated him. He was considered a traitor to his people and his faith.
Paul was transformed when he came to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. He acquired a strong burden for the lost.
You and I as believers in Jesus have to ask ourselves these questions: do we have a burden for the lost people of this world? And if we don’t, why not?
I want us to see from Romans 9:1-3, 3 ways the believer’s burden for the lost influences our lives.
First, it changes the way we FEEL towards other people.
God can rake us from calloused or indifferent to the spiritual condition of others and make us deeply burdened for them. This burden helps us to move from being inward focused to upward and outward focused.
Matthew 22:37-39 tells us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is seen clearly in Paul’s life as he went from persecuting followers of Christ to dedicating his entire life to preaching the gospel. God gave him a burden for lost people and it changed the way he felt about others. The same thing happens to us when we get saved. We are transformed by God and He gives us a heart for other people. God changes the way we feel towards others.
Ok, the second way this burden for the lost influences us is this: it changes the way we SEE other people.
One of the most natural ways for people to see others is according to their differences. People naturally divide up into camps of us and them. But Christians have been supernaturally changed. The Holy Spirit lives within us and He changes us so that we see other people differently. We begin to see that all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Skin color, political beliefs, income level…none of the criteria that we use to separate ourselves matters to God a single bit. God created us in His image and for His glory.
God also allows us to see people according to the purpose of God for them and not by the way they treat us. Remember, many of his own people hated him. He could have felt justified in hating them back. But Paul looked at his fellow Israelites according to God’s desires for them instead of looking at them according to how they treated him.
I believe it is so important for us as Christians to remember that at one time, we were lost in sin too. We should never forget what it feels like to be lost and separated from God by our sins! When we interact with someone that doesn’t know the Lord, we shouldn’t expect them to behave like Christians. We shoudln’t see people according to the things they are not, we should instead see them as what they can be – sinners saved by God’s amazing grace! God did it for me and I know that God can do it for everyone else too.
Alright, the third and final way that the believer’s burden for lost influences our lives is this: it changes the way we TREAT other people.
This burden we have as believers causes us to treat other people differently. It leads us to sacrifice for others. What do we sacrifice? Our pride – we humble ourselves and embrace God’s will over our will. We also are willing to sacrifice rejection, persecution and the comforts of this life to see the good news of the Gospel brought to the ends of the earth.
Paul sacrificed wealth and comfort and power and authority because he understood that the Christian is meant to play a part in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth. We have a mission from God to love other people and to tell them about God’s love for them and to live out that love for them in the way we treat them.
In the church, we use phrases a lot like “we want to see a revival,” and “we want to see this nation return to God.” But we have to ask ourselves, if we really want those things like we say we do, why aren’t we telling people about Jesus? Why aren’t we more excited about our faith? Why don’t we invite others to church?
My former pastor often says, “Salvation came to you and me on its way to someone else.” That is so true and it is so important for us to remember.
Let’s ask God to give us the burden for the lost that will lead us to do what God put us here to do!
God bless you, I hope you have a great week!